On April 19, 2023, assistant professor of biology Alison Pischedda, along with Barnard staff member Olivia Anastasio and Barnard graduate Chelsea Sinclair ’21, published new research in Evolution. Their breakthrough paper, “Cryptic male mate choice for high-quality females reduces male postcopulatory success in future matings,” details how males differentially allocate resources to females during or after copulation. This postcopulatory sexual selection process is called “cryptic male mate choice” because it involves processes that are typically hidden from us. According to their research, when male resources are limited, males may benefit by strategically allocating more resources, such as sperm and seminal proteins, toward higher-quality females.
Pischedda and her colleagues experimented with fruit flies, having male fruit flies mate with females of large or small body sizes. Their study revealed that males had a higher initial investment in matings with large females but that this higher investment reduced male paternity success in their subsequent matings. Cryptic male mate choice may carry underappreciated costs to males that could limit their reproductive potential.